historical fiction books | historical romance books

Eighty Excellent Online Historical Collections

By Ana Brazil
June 9, 2023

Happy International Archives Day!

In the spirit of Fifty Fabulous Online Library Historical Collections, Sixty Sensational Online Historical Archive Collections, and 74 Superlative Online Historical College Collections, I’m celebrating the holiday by sharing Eighty Excellent Online Historical Collections.

Almost all archive and collection descriptions come directly from the archive website. If you’ve got any online collections to recommend, we’d love to hear about them in our comments section.

Calisphere: University of California

  • California Motion Picture Corporation, c.1914-1918 – The California Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) was located in the Sun Valley neighborhood of San Rafael, Marin County, between 1914 and 1921. The images in this collection are mostly stills from the CMPC’s archives, and were digitized from the original glass plate negatives.
  • Collection of Chinese Theater Images in California – This collection of images related to Chinese Theater in California ranges from 1883-2004, although the majority of the photographs document performers and productions from the 1920s to late 1940s.
  • Fashion Plate Collection – Over 6,200 hand-colored, finely detailed fashion illustrations produced between 1780 and 1880 for British and American fashion magazines.
  • Hispanic History and Culture – These digitized materials span in time and coverage from Colonial Mexico to twentieth-century California.
  • Los Angeles Public Library City Directories – This selection of Los Angeles City and Street Directories spans from 1875-1987.
  • Menu Collection – 398 menus representing the culinary history of California and the world since the 19th Century, the Menu Collection extends beyond restaurants to include items from cruise ships, airlines, banquets, social clubs, hotels and resorts.
  • Otis Marston Colorado River Collection – Depicts the history and landscapes of the Colorado, Green, San Juan, Salmon, and Snake rivers for the period 1870-1978.
  • Sugimoto (Henry) Collection – 130 paintings by Henry Sugimoto, a Japanese American artist who flourished in the 1930s and continued to paint well into the 1990s.

From the Fashion Plate Collection.

Digital Commonwealth: Massachusetts Collections Online

  • 19th Century American Trade Cards – Color lithographed Victorian-era trade cards were a key late-19th century advertising vehicle for national manufacturers and local businesses. These miniature posters, about the size of a postcard, were handed out as souvenirs at major expositions during the late Victorian period.
  • African American Freemasonry & Fraternalism – This collection brings together a number of documents related to historically black fraternal organizations, including many related to Prince Hall Freemasonry.
  • Alton H. Blackington Photograph Collection, ca. 1920-1963 – A native of Rockland, Maine, Alton H. “Blackie” Blackington (1893-1963) was a writer, photojournalist, and radio personality associated with New England “lore and legend.”
  • American Civil War Collection
  • Boston Pictorial Archives – One of the largest distinct collections of images related to Boston held by a public institution and the essential resource for Boston architectural, social, and neighborhood history.
  • Coast Guard Heritage Museum – Contains an assortment of documents and images related to U.S. Coast Guard history.
  • Eadweard Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion – An electro-photographic investigation of consecutive phases of animal movements, 1872-1885″ was published by the University of Pennsylvania in 1887. The images include studies of nude men and women in remarkable stopped-action photographs by a pioneering master photographer.
  • James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903). Lithographs, Etchings, and Drawings – Whistler was an American painter and printmaker born in Lowell, Massachusetts.
  • Laurel Hill Cemetery Gravestone Rubbings – This collection holds gravestone rubbings that…were created in…the old section of Laurel Hill Cemetery in Reading, Massachusetts.
  • Perkins School for the Blind Lantern Slides – Contains 154 individual lantern slides from the following categories: Images from the South Boston, Jamaica Plain, and Watertown campuses, building plans, students, educational activities, manual training, marketing projects, and school events.
  • Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection
  • The Woman’s Era (Boston, Mass. : 1894-1897) – The Woman’s Era, edited and published by Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, was the first national periodical published by and for Black women in the United States. The publication was originally produced for the Woman’s Era Club, an advocacy group for Black women, but began national distribution in 1894.

From the 19th Century American Trade Cards Collection

Digital New Zealand

Museum of the City of New York 

  • Berenice Abbott – A pioneering woman photographer’s view of NYC.
  • Currier and Ives – Prints from the 19th century lower Manhattan printmakers Currier and Ives.
  • Jacob A Riis – Photographs from the author of 1890’s HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES.
  • Mid-20th Century Women’s Garments – Mid-20th century garments worn by notable New York women and created by celebrated designers. Calling Mrs. Maisel!
  • Posters and Patriotism – World war I poster collection.
  • Sophie Tucker – Singer, comedian, and actress, Sophie Tucker was one of the most well-known entertainers of the first half of the 20th century.
  • Wurts Bros. – Photographs detailing the growth of 20th century New York built environment.
  • Yiddish Theater – Photographs from theatrical productions performed or originated on New York’s Yiddish stage.

Yiddish Theater poster c.1928.

San Francisco Public Library

  • Digitized Book Collection – Books about San Francisco.
  • Harvey Milk Archives / Scott Smith Collection – Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Scott Smith was his partner and friend. The collection documents the personal and political life of Harvey Milk, and the personal life of Scott Smith.
  • Insurance maps of San Francisco, California / Sanborn-Perris Map Company- The 6 atlas volumes show the city in great detail, with building shape, height, construction materials, and many other details typical of fire insurance atlases of the period, including firehouses, stables, elevators, chimneys, steam boilers, firewalls, doorways, etc.
  • Robert Durden Color Slide Collection – Collection consists of over 65,000 35mm color slides documenting San Francisco buildings, events and locations between the early 1990s and 1950.
  • San Francisco Postcard Collection – Contains over 5,000 photomechanical postcards of San Francisco, California…The postcards range in date from the turn of the 20th century to the 1990s.
  • San Francisco Punk Archive – Preserves and showcases materials that document the punk music and culture scene in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1977 to the mid-eighties. The archive contains fliers, posters, zines, photographs, and other ephemera that relate to the bands, venues, shows, and events that shaped the underground movement.

University of Arizona Special Collections

  • American Vaudeville Museum Collection – Materials documenting vaudeville and other entertainment in the United States, particularly in the 1910s through 1940s.
  • Arizona, Southwestern, and Borderlands Photograph Collection – Photographs…of Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico including places, people, events and activities, and dating from about 1875 to the present.
  • Frank West Journal – One volume journal containing handwritten entries from 1884- 1885, recording marches during the Apache campaign. The routes are from Fort Huachuca, Arizona, to Fort Craig, New Mexico; from Fort Craig to Fort Wingate, and from there to Deming.
  • Historic Mexican & Mexican American Press – This collection documents and showcases historic Mexican and Mexican American publications published in Tucson, El Paso, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sonora, Mexico from the mid-1800s to the 1970s.
  • Nell McCarthy Photograph Collection – Nell McCarthy was a high school student in Douglas, AZ in the late 1910s to 1920s. 170 black-and-white photographs document Nell McCarthy’s daily life in Douglas, taken ca. 1918 to 1925.
  • Recipe and Home Remedy Book – The materials in the collection are speculated to have been compiled in southern England…There are handwritten entries for home medicinal cures, food and alcoholic beverage recipes, and household hints.
  • Reports of the Home Demonstration Agents – Bound typescripts of agents reports, including photographs, charts, clippings, and examples of publications from 1918 to 1958. Also includes statistical summaries for 1918 to 1919 and 1932 to 1933.
  • USS Arizona Collection – The battleship USS Arizona (BB39) was launched in 1915 and sunk December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. This collection was assembled from donations from various people involved with the battleship during those years.

Nell McCarthy collection.

University of Florida

  • Aerial Photography: Florida
  • Albert Huet’s WWI Documents – Albert Huet was born on December 14, 1897 in a small village in Normandy, France. This collection is comprised of Albert Huet’s WWI diary and other artifacts related to his time in the French army.
  • America’s Swamp: the Historical Everglades – Includes…early plans for draining the Everglades in the 1880s and 1890s, the dredging of canals and subsequent development of the destroyed wetlands at the start of the 20th century, as well as early attempts by conservationists to preserve the natural resources of the Everglades.
  • Bo Diddley Collection – represents the life and career of one of the founders of rock and roll who, in the 1950s, played an important role in the shaping of this new musical genre.
  • Doris Duke Native American Oral History Interviews – Includes interviews with the following tribal communities: Catawba Indian Nation; Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina; Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians; Poarch Band of Creek Indians; and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
  • Ringling Collection – comprised of cabinet cards, postcards and photographs of American and British actors and actresses.
  • South America Collections – includes materials with a geographic focus on South America…including books, journals, newspapers, maps and other materials in print and computer based formats covering all countries and cultures of the region.
  • Zora Neale Hurston Papers – Zora Neale Hurston, (1891c-1960), was an African American anthropologist, folklorist, and author of African American literature. This collection, consisting of manuscripts, documents and photos saved from a burn barrel by a friend after Hurston’s death, was given to the University in the 1960s.


    America’s Swamp: the Historical Everglades

University College of London

  • Carswell Illustrations – The Carswell Illustrations Collection consists of pathological drawings by Sir Robert Carswell (1793-1857), Professor of Pathological Anatomy, UCL Medical School 1831-1840.
  • George Orwell Archive – The most comprehensive body of research material relating to the author George Orwell (Eric Blair) (1903-1950) anywhere.
  • Jewish Pamphlets Collection – Printed, manuscript and archival collections of Hebraica and Judaica which are of national and international importance.
  • Medieval Manuscript Fragments – Fragments of medieval and early modern manuscripts, primarily leaves from liturgical texts including missals, breviaries, psalters, bibles and biblical commentaries.
  • Slade Archives – Since 1871, UCL’s Slade School of Fine Art has educated and trained generations of world-renowned artists. The Slade has an extensive archive which includes papers, photographs, class lists, student records and artefacts dating throughout the school’s history at UCL.
  • The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Digital Library – Contains rare books and art works related to Greek history, archaeology and culture.
  • The Woman Teacher – ‘The Woman Teacher’ is the journal of the National Union of Women Teachers (NUWT), which was formed to campaign for equal pay and conditions of service for women teachers but also took an active interest in a wide range of social, professional and educational issues including the peace movement.
  • Yarowilca Sites of the Alto Marañón, Peru – Collection of photographs taken by John S. Ingham, during visits made to the area in 1996 and in 2015 to 2018.

University of Calgary

  • Album of Postcards of British Actors and Actresses – This album belonged to Elsie Taylor and was compiled during 1906-1910. The album contains portraits of 42 individual actresses and 24 individual actors.
  • Calgary Stampede – Photographs, programs, catalogs, corporate records, and other printed ephemera from Calgary Stampede Archives from 1908 – early 2000s.
  • Glenbow Library and Archives – Documents the human and natural history of Southern Alberta.
  • Historical Maps – Focused primarily on the western Canadian prairies.
  • International Dog Day – Dogs have long held a special role in our lives. We can see our relationship with dogs in the thousands of photographs, editorial cartoons, and other materials housed in our digital collections.
  • Invertebrates – A reference collection of native bees and other invertebrates found in Alberta.
  • Mountain Studies – These postcards depict views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and the Purcell Mountains.
  •  Winnipeg General Strike – The General Strike which occurred between 15 May-25 June 1919…is Canada’s best known general strike.

From the International Dog Day Collection

University of San Diego

From Italian Postcards



Ana Brazil

Written by Ana Brazil

Ana Brazil writes historical crime fiction celebrating bodacious American heroines. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Historical Novel Society, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers.
Ana’s latest historical mystery is THE RED-HOT BLUES CHANTEUSE, which features murder, mayhem, and music in 1919 San Francisco. Her award-winning historical mystery FANNY NEWCOMB & THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER is set in Gilded Age New Orleans.

View Ana’s PLW Profile

Share This Post

1 Comment

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *